SHOP SMART TO AVOID DEBT: How to complete your school shopping list

Love it or loathe it, the kids will be heading back to school shortly. And, the last thing you want is to head into the cooler months with more debt on your credit card and less money in your pocket. If you’ve left back-to-school shopping to the last minute, don’t panic. Use these tips to get through it without adding to your debt load.

Don’t let the stats scare you

Last year, parents expected to spend close to $900 on back-to-school supplies — a figure that doubled from the year before. A new 2018 survey revealed that more than three-quarters of Canadian parents think back-to-school spending continues to get more expensive every year. And a lot of Canadian parents (44 per cent) confess that spending on back-to-school essentials is a financial burden.

It’s no wonder. School shopping comes in that awkward time between summer holidays and winter holidays. For families who are already feeling squeezed, this season can put a further strain on tight budgets or max out an already high debt load.

5 thrifty ways to cross those supplies off your list

Lazy days at the cottage, picnics at the beach…the long days of summer are winding down and it’s time to gear up and get ready for a regular routine. But getting your kids prepared for school doesn’t mean you’ll need to buy everything on their school list all at once. Here’s where to start:

  1. Re-use and take stock. Did you set aside the “leftover” school supplies at the beginning of the summer? It’s easy for things to get lost in the shuffle. Take some time to go over what you have on hand already. Last year’s pencil cases, highlighters, pencil crayons and backpacks might still be in good shape, which can save you the cost of buying some new items this year.
  2. Stick to a spending plan. Go over your monthly budget to see how much money you have to put toward school shopping this month. It’s best to stick to cash when shopping when you can to avoid overspending or turning to credit, especially if you’re already carrying a balance on your card.
  3. Spread out your spending. Start by focusing on the essentials. August is a great month to buy backpacks and school supplies like paper, pencils and binders. Wait to buy other supplies if you can. For instance, holding out until October for the bulk of kids’ clothes shopping means you’ll score some killer clearance deals. The same is true for tech deals which go on sale toward the end of September to make room for holiday sales.
  4. Don’t forget about school lunchesthat task that so many parents dread. Planning ahead can help save time and money. Find a good reusable lunch bag and/or reusable containers that can hold all the food your child will need and keep it cool/hot if necessary. You’ll have less food waste if it’s stored properly. Sit down with your kids now and set up a meal plan for school lunches that include healthy, tasty and affordable choices.
  5. Get ahead of your debt. Too much summer spending can leave us light on cash during the fall months. Don’t lose sight of your other financial commitments and be sure to start saving for the winter months now. And, if your debt is keeping you from setting aside savings or covering all your expenses, speak to a debt help professional or at least look over your debt relief options online.

Dealing with your debt now can put you in a better position to save up in advance for all your kids’ expenses that pop up throughout the year — like birthday parties, extracurricular activities and school pizza lunches.

Flashy ads and one-day-only sales are meant to make you spend. During the school shopping season, stick to your list, avoid debt, stick to your budget and avoid buying out of panic or FOMO.

For more back-to-school tips, check out Kerry Taylor’s savings ideas on her website You can also join us on Twitter for more tips using the hashtags #BackToSchool #DebtSolutions #ParentingTips